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The Sidebar: N.H. Delegation Calls For Release Of Woman Sentenced To Death In Sudan

All four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are urging the U. S. government to secure the release of the pregnant wife of a Manchester man from a Sudanese prison.

Meriam Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old physician who is eight months pregnant with her second child, was sentenced to death by hanging last week after a Sudanese court found her guilty of apostasy.

Ishag was also found guilty of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes for having sex with her husband, Daniel Wani, a Christian from Sudan who immigrated to New Hampshire in 1998 and was granted U.S. citizenship in 2005.

Ishag’s father was Muslim, but she was raised as a Christian by her mother, a Christian from Ethiopia, after her father left. Following sharia law, the Sudanese court considers Ishag a Muslim and refused to recognize her marriage.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte cosponsored a bipartisan resolution condemning the death sentence and calling for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Ishag, who is being held in a Khartoum prison along with her 20-month-old son.

"Ms. Ibrahim's death sentence is an abhorrent violation of the fundamental human right of religious liberty, and this resolution strongly condemns the Sudanese court's ruling," Ayotee said in a statement. "I've called for the U.S. government to offer her political asylum and continue to demand that the U.S. use high-level diplomatic measures to secure her and her son's safe release."

The resolution urges Sudan to abide by international standards of religious freedom, and it “reaffirms the commitment of the United States to ending religious discrimination and to pursuing policies that guarantee the basic human rights of all individuals worldwide.”

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and 1st District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said “no man or woman anywhere" should be sentenced to death for exercising religious freedom.

“Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and her toddler must be released immediately, and we urge the State Department to use every means of leverage at its disposal to ensure the release of this young woman and her son,” Shaheen and Shea-Porter said.

2nd District Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, in a statement, called Ishag’s case “a profound and inexcusable violation of human rights.

"Our government needs to lend its full strength to saving this young mother, and the international community must band together to bring an end to this sort of reprehensible persecution,” Kuster said.

Daniel Wani went back to Sudan to visit Ishag about a year ago, then remained for her trial, said his brother, Gabriel, who immigrated to the U.S. with Daniel.

He said it's not clear if the Sudanese government will allow Daniel to return to the country with his son. 

If the verdict and sentence stand, Ishag is set to be executed in about two years.  

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